Nigella Lawson’s personal assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, have been cleared of fraud.
The TV cook said she “disappointed but unsurprised” by the court decision.
The trial of Francesca Grillo, 35, and sister Elisabetta, 41, heard they spent £685,000 ($1.1 million) on credit cards owned by Nigella Lawson and ex-husband Charles Saatchi.
They claimed Nigella Lawson allowed their spending to cover up her cocaine use.
Nigella Lawson’s personal assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, have been cleared of fraud
Nigella Lawson, 53, said her experience as a witness was “deeply disturbing” and she had been “maliciously vilified”.
Following the verdict, Nigella Lawson said: “Over the three-week trial the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible.
“When false claims about habitual drug use were introduced I did everything possible to ensure the CPS was aware of the sustained background campaign deliberately designed to destroy my reputation.”
Nigella Lawson added: “Even more harrowing was seeing my children subjected to extreme allegations in court without any real protection or representation. For this I cannot forgive the court process.”
Nigella Lawson’s former PA Elisabetta Grillo has accused the TV cook and her husband Charles Saatchi of lying in court.
Elisabetta Grillo, 41, told Isleworth Crown Court that she was the only one telling the truth in the case.
She also said that Nigella Lawson’s other PAs, who have given evidence in court, had also lied.
Nigella Lawson’s former PA Elisabetta Grillo has accused the TV cook and her husband Charles Saatchi of lying in court
Former PAs Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who are sisters, deny fraudulently using credit cards.
Elisabetta Grillo told the court that Nigella Lawson gave her permission to pay for designer shoes and a language course on a credit card provided by Charles Saatchi.
The court was told that Elisabetta Grillo did not mention that Nigella Lawson had taken drugs in her original defense statement made in August because she “felt a remnant of sympathy” towards the TV chef.
There was a “culture of secrecy” in Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s marriage, a London court has heard today.
The news emerged during legal argument in the case involving Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s personal assistants who are accused of fraud.
Sisters Francesca, 35, and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, deny spending more than £685,000 ($1.1 million) on Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s credit cards.
Isleworth Crown Court has already heard how Charles Saatchi accused Nigella Lawson of allowing their staff to spend to cover her use of drugs.
Anthony Metzer QC, representing the Italian sisters, told the court: “The defendants’ case is that Nigella Lawson lied to her ex-husband about her drug use and about the expenditure that was incurred by the defendants, both expressly and implicitly, because she was fearful of Mr. Saatchi’s reaction if he knew about the extent of the expenditure and drug use.
“There was a culture of secrecy within Nigella Lawson’s marriage.”
He added: “If Mr. Saatchi is telling the truth, then Ms Lawson is a habitual criminal.”
After the jury was sworn in, prosecutor Jane Carpenter opened the case, stating that the trial “relates to the high life lived by Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo.
“The sort of life you may often see portrayed in glossy magazines.
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson broke up in the summer after pictures were published showing the millionaire art dealer holding his wife by the throat at the restaurant in Mayfair
“But we say that they did so not by their own endeavors but in a greedy and fraudulent free-for-all by abusing the trust of their employers in a four-year spending spree.”
She added: “The defendants both of whom were women of good character, employed by a wealthy family in a position of trust decided to abuse their [credit] cards.
“They travelled the world staying in top hotels and spent exorbitant sums of money on clothes and accessories.
“In total they spent in excess of £685,000. Francesca Grillo spent more than £580,000 and Elisabetta Grillo around £105,000.”
Earlier, the judge ruled the case against the Grillo sisters can go ahead, despite the defense lawyer arguing his clients would not get a fair trial.
Judge Robin Johnson said that “with the right rulings and the ability to monitor the process of the court during the process of the trial, a fair trial can be achieved”.
Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, both of Bayswater, west London, deny fraudulently using company credit cards to buy luxuries, including designer clothes and first-class air travel, between 2008 and 2012.
Anthony Metzer said his clients would not be able to receive a fair trial “as there has been a manipulation of the court process by the two main prosecution witnesses in this case”.
He said: “It’s a convenient forum for Mr. Saatchi and Ms Lawson to rehearse disputed issues between them… in the criminal courts where, of course, the possibility of libel is not possible.”
Prosecution lawyer Jane Carpenter argued the case should not be thrown out as “nothing raised shows manipulation of court process” and “the timeline proves it”.
“This case therefore started long before any allegations of drug taking,” the prosecution lawyer added.
During the hearing, Anthony Metzer read out part of a statement from Charles Saatchi, which said: “It was only during the break-up that I became aware that she was taking drugs when we were married.
“I can’t remember precisely when but I think it was in June 2013, at the time of the well-publicized incident at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair.
“It was subsequently confirmed to me by other people in and around the household.”
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson broke up in the summer after pictures were published showing the millionaire art dealer holding his wife by the throat at the restaurant in Mayfair.
Recent reports claim that Charles Saatchi threatened to commit suicide in a bid to win back Nigella Lawson after the first stages of their divorce.
According to The Mail on Sunday, in a series of text messages and phone calls, Charles Saatchi warned he would take his own life and begged his wife to contact him. The “harassing” messages show the depths of despair – some friends say madness – into which Charles Saatchi has sunk.
It appears that he has accused Nigella Lawson of potentially criminal behaviour and allowed his young daughter to make statements alleging illegality by her stepmother.
The revelations come as Nigella Lawson prepares to step up her cookery career, with plans for endorsements, another book and a new TV series to be filmed in Los Angeles in September. She has not seen her estranged husband since photographs of him grasping her by the throat were published in a Sunday newspaper eight weeks ago. Nigella Lawson has also refused to answer any of the messages Charles Saatchi has been leaving on a daily basis.
Charles Saatchi threatened to commit suicide in a bid to win back Nigella Lawson after the first stages of their divorce
However, Nigella Lawson finally relented after Charles Saatchi, 70, said he would kill himself. Such was his despair, his 18-year-old daughter Phoebe also texted her former stepmother to say she was worried about her father’s state of mind.
Friends revealed details of his desperate behaviour after being “appalled” that he allowed his daughter to attack Nigella Lawson by claiming her stepmother had abandoned her.
The couple spoke twice on the phone in the days after their decree nisi was granted on July 31. It is understood that the threats of suicide were made in at least one “ranting” phone call.
According to a friend of Nigella Lawson, she felt she was left with little choice but to contact him.
The friend said: “Charles has been texting and phoning Nigella endlessly. One minute he’s pleading, the next bullying. Her silence has been driving him crazy. When she didn’t reply, he used Phoebe to get Nigella to talk to him, to tell her she was worried about his state of mind. He’s not above using Phoebe as a bargaining chip. In the end, after the threats, Nigella called him. The first conversation was quite sweet.
“It was a case of, <<please come back>>. Nigella was sympathetic. She was going out somewhere and said I hope you don’t [do anything silly].
“The second conversation was more difficult but she held firm.”
A friend of Charles Saatchi also confirmed that he had contemplated suicide in recent weeks as he struggled to come to terms with losing his wife and his reputation.
It is said that one of the hardest things for Charles Saatchi has been Nigella Lawson’s refusal to defend him against allegations of being a wife-beater – allegations Saatchi insists they both know aren’t true.
The suicide threats come amid deepening concerns for the former advertising tycoon who has been acting increasingly strangely of late.
Yesterday he allowed his teenage daughter to issue a statement to a newspaper denouncing Nigella Lawson.
Phoebe, his daughter by his second wife Kay Hartenstein, accused her stepmother Nigella Lawson of abandoning her and said: “She has behaved in a very cold-hearted way.”
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi moved a step closer to ending their marriage today.
Court paperwork shows that Nigella Lawson, 53, applied to divorce Charles Saatchi, 70, on the grounds of his “continuing unreasonable behavior”.
During a hearing at London’s High Court which lasted less than a minute, District Judge Anne Aitken granted the couple a decree nisi – the first legal step to ending their 10-year marriage.
The marriage was said to have irretrievably broken down and an “order for financial relief” has been agreed between the petitioner and respondent.
On the petition before court, Nigella Lawson had ticked “Yes” to the question: “Is the respondent’s behavior as set out in your petition continuing?”
Nigella Lawson also confirmed in the document that they were living apart.
The document was signed by the popular cook and broadcaster on July 9.
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi now have to wait for a decree absolute, which is usually issued six weeks and a day later, ending their marriage.
Nigella Lawson applied to divorce Charles Saatchi on the grounds of his continuing unreasonable behavior
Neither the couple or their legal representatives attended the hearing.
In Court 9, Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi’s names were read out with 14 other divorcing couples.
The judge asked: “Does any party or person wish to show cause against decrees being made or in the question of costs?”
A decree nisi is a statement saying the court sees no reason why a divorce cannot be granted.
It is thought the divorce will be rubber-stamped some time in September.
Nigella Lawson flew into Heathrow Airport last night ahead of the hearing.
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, who are said to be worth an estimated £150 million ($235 million) and shared a £12 million ($19 million) home in Chelsea, are believed to have agreed never to publicly disclose the terms of the divorce or financial settlements.
They are also understood to have signed a pre-nuptial agreement when they wed in 2003.
Nigella Lawson was the applicant in the case.
It is understood Charles Saatchi dispensed with lawyers to deal directly with Nigella Lawson’s high profile lawyer Fiona Shackleton in an attempt to keep his multimillion pound art collection intact.
The couple’s marriage ended after Charles Saatchi was pictured choking his wife, who has made her fortune as TV’s Domestic Goddess, at their favorite London haunt, Scott’s restaurant, last month.
Nigella Lawson was then left reeling by Charles Saatchi’s “cruelty” after he announced in The Mailon Sunday that he would be seeking a divorce.
In a final, crushing act of emotional control, Charles Saatchi released an extraordinary statement to say that the marriage was over – without giving her any warning of his intentions.
Nigella Lawson moved out of their home and has rented an apartment with her son Bruno.
She is soon planning to head to Los Angeles where she is filming the new season of her ABC show The Taste.
Charles Saatchi has announced he is divorcing his wife, the television chef Nigella Lawson.
The announcement follows the publication of photographs which showed art collector Charles Saatchi with his hands around Nigella Lawson’s throat at a London restaurant in June.
Charles Saatchi, 70, who accepted a police caution for assault, told the Mail on Sunday he had “clearly been a disappointment” to his wife.
He said it was a “heartbreaking” decision for him.
Charles Saatchi said the couple had “become estranged and drifted apart” over the past year.
“I am sorry to announce that Nigella Lawson and I are getting divorced,” he told the newspaper.
“I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way.”
“I am sorry that we had a row. I am sorry she was upset. I am even more sorry that this is the end of our marriage,” he added.
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson’s divorce announcement follows the publication of photographs which showed the art collector with his hands around his wife’s throat at a London restaurant in June
The pictures of the couple at a restaurant in Mayfair, central London, showed Charles Saatchi grasping his wife’s neck.
The images, which were first published in the Sunday People, provoked a public debate about domestic violence among the rich and famous.
Charles Saatchi dismissed the incident as “a playful tiff” but later accepted a police caution for assault, saying he had done so to stop the incident “hanging over” them.
Nigella Lawson has made no comment since the incident.
Charles Saatchi, a former advertising executive, is a well known art collector and owner of the Saatchi Gallery.
He donated his Chelsea art gallery, including more than 200 works of art, to the British public in 2010.
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson have been married since 2003.
She has two children, Cosima and Bruno, from her marriage to journalist John Diamond, who died in 2001.
Nigella Lawson first began a restaurant column in The Spectator in 1985 and by the following year had become deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times.
She then went on to write the book How to Eat, followed by the award-winning book, How to be a Domestic Goddess.
Nigella Lawson’s television cookery programmes – including Nigella Bites and Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen – have brought her international fame.